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Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 2419, Food and Energy Security Act of 2007

Location: Washington, DC

MOTION TO INSTRUCT CONFEREES ON H.R. 2419, FOOD AND ENERGY SECURITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - April 30, 2008)


Mr. KIND. I thank the gentleman from Arizona for yielding me this time, and I commend him for this motion to instruct.

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear: We need a farm bill, and we need one as soon as possible. It is planting season back home in the upper Midwest and the district I represent in western Wisconsin, and our farmers need some predictability. They need to know what the rules are that they are going to be operating under and producing under in the coming fiscal year and in the coming 5 years.

But we also need a good farm bill, not a bad farm bill, one that is responsible to the American taxpayer and one that does well by the American farmer. And those of us who have been talking about much overdue and needed reforms under the commodity title, these subsidy payments to a handful of commodity producers in this country, have been saying, let's give farmers help when they need it but let's not when they don't.

And the market conditions today are something we have never seen before. They are talking about $10 corn by this summer. Soybean, wheat, rice at an all-time high in the marketplace. Yet instead of trying to tighten up these subsidy programs and rein them in for some possible savings so we can address the other priorities in the farm bill, what is being proposed, to our understanding, and we haven't been privy to the conference negotiations that have been going on, is actually expanding direct payments from the current maximum level of $40,000 up to $60,000, and allowing dual entities operating on the same farm to qualify for the same amount of these direct payments.

And to be clear, the direct payments bear no relationship to commodity prices, no relationship to production. They are something that go out automatically regardless of the marketplace. And, quite frankly, it is the least justifiable aspect of this farm bill today in light of the record commodity prices that exist.

But we also need a farm bill that this President is comfortable in signing, and the administration has been clear from the beginning that they feel there is more room for reform under these commodity programs. We are not talking about the two other subsidy programs, the loan deficiency program or the countercyclical program, although there too they are ramping up the target price and the loan rates under those programs. We are only talking about the direct payments right now, that which goes out automatically to only five principal commodity crops at the expense of everything else that we are trying to accomplish in this farm bill, having a strong conservation title in light of the increased pressure that crop production is placing on sensitive and highly erodible land. And we are seeing that now with a lot of CRP acreage being taken out of CRP and put back into production.

And what does that mean to the average person? That is going to affect quality water supplies throughout the Nation, it's going to affect habitat, wildlife populations, all of which depend on good land stewardship of these lands and knowing what land is highly erodible and what isn't. And that was the whole basis behind CRP to begin with, and yet that now is in jeopardy because of increased commodity prices.

I don't begrudge, and I don't think anyone here begrudges family farmers getting a decent price finally in the marketplace. But where I am from in Wisconsin and talking to my producers, for years they kept saying: We don't like these subsidy programs, either. We wish we didn't have to rely on it. And if we could only get a decent price in the marketplace, we wouldn't have to. Well, guess what. That day has come. And now is an opportunity, never better in the history of the Congress, to start reforming these commodities subsidy programs right now so that at the end of the day we are not painting this big bull's eye on the back of our farmers with more subsidy payments that are going to be challenged through the WTO and possibly taken away through the WTO challenges, just as Brazil has done with the cotton challenge that they successfully prevailed on. And this is only the beginning.

Instead, we could redirect funding for what are called green box payments, conservation payments that also go to family farmers to help them be good land stewards but do not distort the marketplace and they do not distort trade policy, and it doesn't get us into trouble by these outside challenges that we may be facing in the future.

So that is why I think this gentleman's motion to instruct is important. We understand it is in the 11th hour. I appreciate the hard work that the chairman and everyone involved in the conference has been doing. Putting together a farm bill is probably one of the toughest things to do in this place given the parochial interests, given the different ideas and opinions that go into deliberations. But we have an opportunity right now of maintaining an important safety net for family farmers in case things do go south in the commodity market, but at the same time starting to reform these subsidy programs so we are more responsible to the taxpayer but also helping our farmers modernize so they can be more competitive both domestically and abroad. Otherwise, again, we are setting them up for future challenges by loading up these subsidy programs to the extent that they have been occurring.

I would be happy to yield to my friend from Arizona.

Mr. FLAKE. I will yield the gentleman an additional 5 minutes, if he would like, as long as he wants.

Mr. KIND. I probably won't need that much time. But, again, hard negotiations. We are getting into the final details of it. There is still an opportunity of producing a bill that the President feels comfortable with in signing, and that way the farmers know what they are operating under.

But, again, these direct payments are probably the least justifiable program going forward today in light of what the marketplace is producing. And the futures market right now is looking astounding when it comes to these commodity crops, and that is going to be good for farm income and debt-to-asset ratio. For family farms, it has never been better. And that again speaks to what we think is a reasonable and justifiable goal of trying to reform these commodity programs so we can deal with the other priorities and still maintain an important safety net to the family farmer.

Again, I thank my friend from Arizona for offering the motion.


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